Mentally ill women are much more likely to be in an abusive relationship

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Mentally ill women are much more likely to be in an abusive relationship
Mentally ill women are much more likely to be in an abusive relationship

Women who have been diagnosed with severe mental health disorders are almost four times more likely to have been the victim of domestic violence than women without these disorders, says a new study by Women’s College Hospital in Canada.

The research is the first Canadian population-based study to study the prevalence of violence by partners and mates in women with disabilities with a focus on women who are diagnosed with mental illness. The researchers defined partner violence as emotional, physical, sexual, and financial abuse.

“Our study suggests that women whose daily activities were limited by a psychological, emotional or mental health conditions may be especially vulnerable to being victimized,” said Tonia Du Mont, the study’s lead author and a scientist at Women’s College Research Institute. “What’s more, we found that the more severe the mental health related disability, the higher the prevalence of intimate partner violence.”

Discrimination can also have devastating effects on mentally ill women. “For women with a mental health-related disability, the consequences of experiencing discrimination can be devastating,” said Du Mont. “It may lead to social isolation and put these women at greater risk for harmful or abusive relationships, discouraging them from seeking help from their abusive relationship and their mental health problems.”

Researchers studied a sample of 6, 851 women who had contact with a former or current partner in the previous five years.

Study findings:

Nearly 45 percent of women with severe mental health disorders reported experiencing discrimination within the past five years, in comparison to 15 percent of women in the general population
More mentally ill women reported having less trust in family, neighbors, school peers, and co-workers, and had a weaker sense of belonging to their communities
More women with severe limits on their daily activities reported less household incomes
Rates of all types of violence were higher in women who had both moderate and severe mental health disorders

“Our findings suggest that prevention and intervention activities may need to better target women with mental health disabilities, to help alleviate the suffering and negative impact of partner abuse,” said Du Mont.

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